UGA Blueberry Team

Ash Sial (58 posts)
Dr. Ash Sial is Professor of Entomology at the University of Georgia. He received his B.S. from University of Arid Agriculture Rawalpindi (Pakistan), M.S. from University of Greenwich (United Kingdom), and Ph.D. Entomology from Washington State University (United States of America). Dr. Sial worked as a postdoctoral research associate at University of California Berkeley and Cornell University before accepting a faculty position at the University of Georgia. At UGA, he holds research, extension, teaching, and service appointment in department of entomology and also serves as IPM Coordinator for the state of Georgia. His research program seeks to investigate biology and ecology of economically important insect pests and utilize that information to develop more sustainable IPM programs in small fruits. In his current role as a fruit entomologist, he works closely with blueberry growers throughout the state of Georgia to determine their pest management needs and help them develop and implement environmentally sustainable and economically viable IPM programs. His research program has successfully secured over $32.1 million in competitive grants through federal and state agencies as well as private industry. He has authored over 200 research and extension publications, over 276 presentations including 43 invited seminars, 13 webinars, and 3 keynote addresses, created several educational materials including blogs, websites, and smartphone apps, and organized 21 symposia at the national and international conferences. His research program has been highlighted multiple times in print and broadcast media including national radio and television. He has extensive record of serving professional organizations in a leadership role at the regional, national and international level. Dr. Sial has served on the Entomological Society of America (ESA) Student Affairs Committee (Chair – 2010), the ESA Program Committee (2010), ESA Committee on Early Career Professionals (2013-15), ESA Pacific Branch (Program Chair – 2013) and Southeastern Branch (Program Chair – 2017), UGA Department of Entomology Seminar Committee (2015 – 2019), Southern Region Technical Committee on IPM (Chair – 2015-16 and 2021-22), Sponsorship Committee for International Congress of Entomology (2016), and Program Committee for the 9th and 10th International IPM Symposium (2018, 2022, 2025). Dr. Sial has received 39 awards for excellence in research, extension, and teaching, as well as professional leadership and service at regional and national level including WSU President’s Award 2009, John Henry Comstock Award 2010, Future Leader in IPM 2016, ESA-SEB Excellence in Early Career Award 2019, IPM Team Award 2019, ESA Science Policy Fellow 2021, ESA-SEB Distinguished Achievement Award in Horticultural Entomology 2023, and ESA P-IE IPM Team Award 2023.

CAES Web Team (4 posts)

Jonathan Oliver (20 posts)
Dr. Jonathan Oliver is an Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Georgia. He has a 75% research and 25% extension appointment. Dr. Oliver started in his current position at the University of Georgia in mid-2017 as an extension fruit pathologist at the Coastal Plains Experiment Station in Tifton, Georgia. His responsibilities include research and extension activities focused on pathogen biology and disease management in fruit crops grown primarily in the southern part of Georgia, including blueberries, blackberries, citrus, and other emerging fruit crops. Dr. Oliver obtained a BS degree in Plant Pathology and Microbiology & Cell Science from the University of Florida in 2005, and a PhD in Plant Microbe Biology from Cornell University, New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, NY in 2011. In addition, he has also been postdoctoral researcher at Kansas State University and Auburn University. At Auburn, he characterized the interactions between the emerging bacterial pathogen, Xylella fastidiosa, and its blueberry plant hosts. He currently serves as a Plant Pathology Section editor for the Southeast Regional Blueberry Integrated Management Guide.
Visit Jonathan’s website.

Joseph LaForest
Joe is the Associate Director for the Southern IPM Center and the IPM and Forest Health Specialist at the Center for Invasive Species And Ecosystem Health at the University of Georgia. His main focus is on development of systems to help deliver information to people to inform their pest management decisions and helping implement the technology that is already available.
Visit Joseph’s website.

Phil Brannen (20 posts)
Phil Brannen is a Professor in the Plant Pathology Department at the University of Georgia. He attended the University of Georgia for his undergraduate degree in Plant Protection and Pest Management, where he also received an M.S. in Plant Pathology, followed by a Ph.D. in Plant Pathology from Auburn University. He has extensive experience with disease management programs in numerous cropping systems. He serves as the extension fruit pathologist for Georgia – conducting research and technology transfer for multiple fruit commodities. His blueberry efforts are directed towards developing IPM practices to solve disease issues and technology transfer of disease-management methods to commercial blueberry producers. He also teaches the graduate level Field Pathology Course, team-teaches the IPM Course, coordinates the Viticulture and Enology in the Mediterranean Region Course (Cortona, Italy), and guest lectures in numerous other courses throughout the year.